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  1. #1
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    List of Inquiries After Reading - Let's Take A Fresh Look?

    Hello all!

    I don't believe I have ever posted here, though I have been following the story for years. I read through all this years ago, but had forgotten much. Now I've spent all day today and yesterday reading through what we have. I haven't finished, but I was feeling overwhelmed with questions and felt the need to note them while they were fresh. So forgive me if I ask something that was covered on page like, 39 of a previous thread

    Is anyone well-versed on this still active? Interested? I do believe there should be a thread addressing each clue right in the title, as so many revelations are deeply buried in comments pages. Not saying this post should be it, but I think it would be a great idea!

    I think we can solve this. I really do. I think someone knows something, but people have to understand that people involved in criminal dealings of that era don't talk. Does anyone watch Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul? Well, the character of Mike Ehtmentraut is a great example of this type of character. All business. You do the dirtywork and it stays in your head. It's not your business to talk. It's not your place to carry guilt.

    I am from a medium sized city in Appalachia and I know that here, there was major mafia activity through the 60s and 70s and earlier. There are cases on my city's cold case page where my mother and many her age simply know who is responsible. It never occurred to her or her sisters to go find the police. It wasn't her business. There is another old case that happened here that I was very interested. Recently I began talking to an elderly man at a bar about local history. When I brought this murder up to him, he clammed up and asked me in all seriousness who I work for. He said there was much more to that case than the media and police knew. My point here is, there are still people of that generation walking around (in the Sodder case, likely the children of the generation in question) who know these things. What could maybe get them to talk would be a monetary reward, or maybe brief fame. The issue is publicity. I don't know many 70 year old in a rural coal town are listening to NPR.

    And I think it's safe to say, there is a crime to be known. With all we know, I'd be amazed if an arson was not committed at the least. And that brings us to the big question here - was that all or was there a kidnapping conspiracy? This case is so bizarre. The moment you feel content to ascribe this all to wishful thinking of a grieving family, new factors emerge. But from what source? This is why I feel better organization, even in the form of a well constructed list in the heading of a post, would be a great way to lend a new focus to what we have.

    For example, after reading Stacy Horn's blog post, one feels resigned to the fact the children perished in the fire. Remains WERE found, after all. The adult brother John confirmed he saw the children in the house right before it was engulfed. The call was just a neighbor with a wrong number. The searches for remains were very unprofessional. This all feels like denouement. But wait. We learn that the 1949 was conducted by an esteemed expert. That a piece of a book was found and identifiable, but no bones? John's grandson told him that he did not see the children. He simply yelled to them. The detective article says that neighbor changed her story. What did she change it to? And how did she make a wrong number if the phone is a party line?

    These are some of the questions I have. Also, what are the sources for that detective magazine?
    The man who inspected the house for another issue and commented that the fuses would cause a fire - could he have simply been correct? Who was he?

    Again, one source with each claim or rumor or piece of evidence, and the source, would be tremendously helpful.

    I have some questions about the Louis photo, as well. I believe it was determined it could not be him. How reliable is the science of photo progression? Do we know the Kentucky zip code that was postmarked on it, and has anyone searched for a Frank Lili there? Maybe Louis was raised as Frank Lili or a brother of his and a loved one saw the story somewhere and sent that photo. Maybe this person told Louis but he had be brainwashed against searching for his past and wouldn't pursue it?

    And how much was looked into the connection with Ubaldo Soddu, Mussolini's former commander? Same surname which I read isn't very common. Janulto (sp?) made a threatening comment to George Sr. about not tolerating anti-Mussolini remarks. Someone also implied Jennie chose to break from a possibly criminal family, was this confirmed? Could her distant relatives have wanted to punish her for this and her husband for their politics, and take the children away so that they could be raised as true Italians (in their eyes)?

    How reliable was the bus driver who saw fireballs on the roof?

    Were the thieves there that night while the house burned? Or before? I've read both. Did they have a connection to Janulto?

    Just brainstorming here.

    Just brainstorming here.
    Last edited by amocksun; 08-29-2015 at 06:04 PM.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2010
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    Hello and welcome to the club.
    Yes, there are people that are still interested but it seems like the interest sort of ebbs and flows over time. I know there are people here that are still trying to make sense of this there are people out there!
    I like your thought patterns and I think you raise some interesting points.
    When you say that “people of that criminal era don’t talk”, you imply a crime was committed. We really can’t assume that. If we had proof it would be one thing but we don’t. All we have is speculation and indications that a crime MAY have been committed. One of the most difficult things for me at least, is to leave your preconceived notions behind and think about this with an open mind. Our views become jaundiced and we expect certain results when we view this through our own filters.
    Another problem with this case is that it’s diffcult to know the accuracy of some of these “facts” about this case. While the internet has sparked a lot more interest I think people take a lot of things here for granted now as “facts” that unfortunately we don’t know if they are true.
    For example, take the waitress that supposedly saw the kids with Italian speaking men after the fire (a week later iirc), the waitress didn’t report the information until 9 months later. That’s a very long time to remember those kids of details. I would have a pretty hard time believing this story if I was on a jury.
    How about the ‘thump” that Jennie claimed to have heard (supposedly from the roof). How could she have heard something hit the roof to the point where it woke her up when in fact there were 7 family members sleeping directly under the roof who this did not disturb (at least to the point of alerting their parents. Again, assuming the parents stories are factual). Now of course this might have happened but there is no way to know for sure. I believe her statement came from a police report. Did she really hear a thump? There is unfortunately, no way to tell.
    I think maybe a better place to “start” would be to try and determine what can be proven and what cannot. Of course, there are precious few details out there…
    A great place to start understating the case is any article or book by George or Melody Bragg on the subject.

    That being said, I am doing exactly as you suggest, tracing leads, talking to people, trying to find out as much as I can. However, as Im sure you know, there is a component of the Appalachian culture that is strongly self-reliant and very cautious with outsiders. This makes finding out information pretty tough, especially reliable information. Some of the information I’ve received directly contradicts what you have seen, read or heard. It’s almost as if the more you attempt to find out, the less clear the whole thing is.
    Here’s an example: I called the courthouse in Fayetteville to inquire if they had a record of a deed transfer when the Sodder’s sold the house. They said they weren’t sure but they encouraged to dial 911 to see if they knew. Everybody knows everybody and if you don’t have a last name that they recognize, there might be a problem, or at a minimum, not get the truth.
    Now that this story has passed from a horrible tragedy into something more akin to folklore, I don’t think people are necessarily any more eager to talk than they were before. Most of the people that had heard about it, only know the outline and don’t know the “real” story.
    As far as the kidnapping theory, Ive heard a wide variety of opinions. I’ve heard there were rumors about kidnapping around town and speculations the day of the fire but I think what’s more telling is when George’s mindset seemed to change. I put it around 6 months later when we began to get more vocal about the situation.
    I have made contact with the family. The people I contacted ask that I don’t pursue anything beyond what I already have. Out of respect for their wishes I will honor that request. In a culture where your last name is everything, I suppose I wouldn’t want people digging into my families past especially if there is a tragedy involved. It must be unusual at the least to have been a part of that.

    Janutolo was considered very well respected within the town. Many people saw him as benevolent and helpful. There is a park dedicated to his honor in town. Clearly he was an “insider” and had a certain amount of influence and power.
    Remains were reported to have been seen. However they were never removed (at least not in an official capacity). This is a key point; several people claimed to have seen these remains. I think that would be a good trail to follow, to speak with these people or at least a relative of these people to see what can be determined from them.
    As far as the inspection goes, George hired the guy 4 years later but does not involve the fire department, the coroner, the police or anybody in an official capacity that could help. He does it himself. Im not an expert on exhumation procedures from the 1940’s but I’m surprised Dr. Hunter from the Smithsonian went along with. Again, he would be a very valuable source of information. Maybe he took notes.
    I hd heard that George stopped the “dig” after the vertebrae were found. Again, if there was a protocol to follow, did George have the authorization to stop it or maybe the doctor was tired of it and wanted to just be done with it.
    Try as I might, I cant give a lot of credence to the theory of the photos. If you dangle enough money in front of people, you will get all kinds of interesting people with all kinds of theories coming out of the woodwork. Yes, the people in the photos look like the Sodder children but so what. What does that prove. If the kids were indeed alive, they would have attempted to make contact with their family.
    Its an interesting, fascinating, compelling story.

  3. #3
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    Sep 2012
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    Thanks for the reply! Well yes, I should say that were a crime committed, it would not necessarily be out by now. I've seen many people here say that "It's hard to believe no one talked all this time" and so I was mostly replying to that. I meant that locally, the children of the people connected in that town during that time may know good and well what happened, if anything did. Hence my saying that very major coverage, or a very thorough PI, could possibly reveal secrets. I'm sure most of you in here are familiar with Ken Brennan, the talented PI who has cracked some really difficult cases. I wonder if he'd be interested in this. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2013/...rack-cold-case

    That said, I think there are so many indications that arson was committed. I'm not sure about the kidnapping. There was a person who commented in the first post here that they spoke to an elder relative from Fayatteville who said something like "There's much more to that story than the media knows" and then I never saw them comment again. I believe high publicity could lure those people who know into talking. Though it would need to be soon - a lot of time has passed.

    I completely agree about the veracity of "facts" - that is exactly why I'd love an exhaustive list of every detail here, and then a corresponding source. It can be very difficult to keep up with it all in your mind! And of course as you said, there will always be things we cannot know, like whether or not Jennie did hear a thump. However, we could for example collect statements from her daughter and grandchildren about her personality (was she the type to imagine things?) and could delve into what the item Sylvia found in the yard could possibly be.I will add as a personal note though, that Jennie hearing that when no one else did is very believable to, as a mom. I know I often lie awake listening to every little sound in my home. Also, what's the story with the bus driver who saw "fireballs" on the roof?

    I have seen all the conflicting accounts and completely agree, the deeper you delve the messier it becomes. It's maddening. There are so many things to question. As for that photo of "Louis", I understand people do absurd things for money but that person who sent that was completely anonymous. There was no way for them to benefit there. I also don't think the kids would've necessarily contacted family, especially if they were moved into a crime family in Italy and brainwashed and threatened and monitored.

    The family didn't want you to pursue it? I thought they were all very interested? Maybe they are just tired of a stream of individuals asking a lot of questions and getting nowhere. I don't believe you or I, or even this whole forum could solve the case. I think Ken Brennan, or Forensic Files, or something with a lot of money and resources maybe could. An entity like that could find Dr Hunter's notes, or see if he told family or colleagues about his search. I just wish we could get this covered by a large project. It's a story that obvious intrigues people so I really don't feel like there would be a lack of interest.
    Last edited by amocksun; 09-03-2015 at 01:53 PM.

  4. #4
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    I've been reading this forum for a while. Yesterday I was leaning almost 100% in the direction of the kids having died in the fire. But then I talked to my ex, who is a career fireman on a rescue truck. He tells me there's no way the kids could have burned without a trace. He said the cremation process, which often leaves fragment of bone, exposes the body to temps of about 3000 degrees for 3 hours. While a house fire caused by an accelerant could burn that hot, once the fuel was burned up it would be significantly cooler than that. So it would not burn *that* hot for *that* long. Basically, there should be something left of each child, and it should be more than bone fragments.
    MOO

  5. #5

    Read through the threads

    Hello everyone! This is my first time posting on this site but I have read through all the threads dating back to 2005 and whew! I think every idea or theory holds some weight! If I repeat an answered question please forgive me but it was alot to take in.

    I can't help it but I keep thinking about the Ricky Jean Bryant case that happened in 49 I believe. What if someone started a fire at the Sodder home simply to kidnap one child and did not expect the 5 children to come out at once? With Ricky Jean the mother got Ricky and her brother outside and ran back in. According to the brother a woman with blonde hair pulled up in a new car, told the brother to go a couple houses down for help. When he returned the lady and his sister were gone.

    So what if the children are inside playing they hear a noise and all five run outside. The kidnapper did not expect that, maybe tried to get the older kids to run for help but Maurice refused so they convinced them all to get in the car to go get help? Maybe didn't know what to do with the older children and that's why they were seen at the hotel, to try to figure out what to do? Maybe the older kids were put into the asylum and the youngest were "adopted"?

    Also, I can't recall the last post I seen from granddaughter or John...did they ever do a new dig?

    Thanks everyone!

  6. #6
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    Sorry if this seems a ridiculous question but google's throwing up really odd results and it's not something I'm familiar with in the uk, but what's a party phone line?

  7. #7
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    These were common when I was growing up. Several homes would be on the same telephone line. Calls to any one of the homes would ring in everyone on that lines house. To know when the call is for you each home had a different ring. It might me three short rings or a short and long ring or anything else to distinguish them. A disadvantage of course is someone might tie up the line a long time or a snoop would listen in on your call.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by spikeelvis View Post
    These were common when I was growing up. Several homes would be on the same telephone line. Calls to any one of the homes would ring in everyone on that lines house. To know when the call is for you each home had a different ring. It might me three short rings or a short and long ring or anything else to distinguish them. A disadvantage of course is someone might tie up the line a long time or a snoop would listen in on your call.
    The good old party lines.
    Media thread for Abby and Libby.


    http://www.websleuths.com/forums/sho...5#post13163455

    WebSleuths Lingo thread.

    http://www.websleuths.com/forums/sho...bsleuths-Lingo

    Unless I provide a link, every one of my posts are to be considered rumor, Speculation, or simply MY OWN OPINION.

    We are the watchers. We are witnesses. We see what has gone before. We see what happens now, at this dangerous moment in human history. We see what's going to happen - what will surely happen - unless we come together: we - the Peoples of all Nations - to restore peace and harmony and balance to the Earth, our Mother.


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  9. #9
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    I think the phone line is an important consideration as well. The phone lines back then were such that when placing a call, you had to ask the phone operator to place a call to a specific number. So if someone wanted to call and warn the Sodders or at least send a message, they had to understand that it would not be as anonymous as it might seem. And to that end, I believe the late night call was traced back to a woman in town (who I think attributed to dialing a wrong number).

  10. #10
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    I'm a firefighter and yes you would find bones/remains (I actually thought that would be known by 99% of people!)......and after reading a lot about the case I think there were remains but nobody really looked (fire investigation was hardly scientific back then anyway....and the understanding of fire is completely different now, to just a couple of decades back).
    If they dug deep enough I think they would find the remains of all the missing children....but is never going to happen.
    The picture sent of the son is eerily creepy...but jmo isn't him.


  11. #11
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    And what about this Mr. Johnson who cut the phone line and was trying to steal the block-and-tackle? Why was he lurking about a rural homestead in the middle of the night? And the fact that he did cut the phone line, that means it must have been cut between the Laughing Woman's call at midnight and the fire. Why wasn't he investigated for more than the stealing of the block-and-tackle? How could a person's actions be more weird and suspicious? He stated his original plan was to cut the power line, but what was his purpose in doing that?

  12. #12
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    I've been literally reading for hours but couldn't quite get through all of it. I have a couple ideas to add that I haven't seen mentioned.

    First, the CJ guy. He apparently approached George Sodder angry that a) he did not purchase life insurance and b) he hadn't settled his father-in-law's estate. I am trying to think of why this man would be concerned with either one of these things, let alone both. I know he was found to be on the coroners jury but do we know what his occupation was? Did he sell life insurance for a living and just threaten people who declined to buy? Even if that were the case, how would he have known or why would he have cared about the Cipriani estate? Perhaps the will or probate records of the deceased Cipriani could answer that question? Perhaps CJ was to inherit something?

    That also led me to wonder if life insurance could have been behind all of this. I don't have a specific idea of who or how but just that cashing in on life insurance for 5 children would be quite a payoff. Perhaps someone was trying to get George Sodder into a scheme and he refused so someone else took a policy on them? It could be an explanation for why it was necessary to convince LE that the children were dead but without actually harming the children. The children could have been told that if they ever "surfaced" their parents would be in a lot of trouble.

    Kind of far-fetched, I know, but being that life insurance had been mentioned, it seems like that could have been a motive.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by spikeelvis View Post
    These were common when I was growing up. Several homes would be on the same telephone line. Calls to any one of the homes would ring in everyone on that lines house. To know when the call is for you each home had a different ring. It might me three short rings or a short and long ring or anything else to distinguish them. A disadvantage of course is someone might tie up the line a long time or a snoop would listen in on your call.
    My paternal great grandparents had a party line and I can remember my father talking about it. I think you ask for the ring, e.g. one short and on long. My father could remember the ring when he called them. It is possible for someone to give the wrong ring.

    It was Christmas Eve and there were the sounds of a party in the background; I can understand how someone could dial a wrong number.

    Thefacelessman is correct. Even after creation, there are small bone fragments; it the remains are in a can, you can hear them rattle. I think his point about the remains possibly being there is valid.


    What happened to former Centre County DA Ray Gricar?

  14. #14
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    Okay I had never even heard about this case until this evening, but now I'm intrigued. I saw someone say that in a small town like that, someone definitely knows something, and I have to agree. I grew up in a small town in Kansas that was primarily Italian, and there was a heavy mafia presence. It's one of those things that nobody talks about, but everyone knows. Everyone has heard stories from their grandparents about the mafia dumping bodies in the strip pits left over from the old mines. Similarly, in another town where I went to High School, there are things that everyone knows but no one talks about. A girl's father isn't actually her biological father, everyone knows but her, those types of things. So I think that it is definitely possible for someone in Fayetteville knows something about the case, even if they haven't said anything. Maybe they don't know it's a relevant piece of information, maybe it's something they heard from an old teacher, a grandparent, somebody in town, but I would bet money that somebody knows something. That's just how things work in small towns.
    Obviously, we don't know what's fact and what is tall-tale or exaggeration or just not true; but if the evidence from the night of the fire alone are accurate, something shady as hell has obviously happened, even if the missing children really did die in the fire. The light being on, the door being unlocked, the curtains being open, the phone call, the sound on the roof, all pretty weird stuff but certainly not conclusive. However, the ladder being gone, the trucks not working, the fact that the fire department was two and a half miles away and didn't get there until morning? That is all pretty damn suspicious. Later, the fact that no remains were found, that's odd, but if they actually found an explosive device at the scene, that's pretty conclusive evidence of foul play... Also, the local authorities and their refusal to look into the case or aid the FBI with an investigation, that's pretty shady. Which brings up another point, the small Italian town I grew up in, is notorious for cops that are on the take. It's common knowledge in the entire four state area, that town is crawling with dirty cops. I'm not saying that this is definitely the case in the Sodder mystery, but, it would certainly explain a lot. Why did no one investigate the insurance salesman who literally threatened to do exactly what happened? There are so many holes in the local authorities in this case, it's swiss cheese!
    What has happened to the house, or should I say where the house once stood, the scene of the fire? Has anyone tried digging again since the 1960's when the vertebrae were sent to the Smithsonian? Does anyone know what ever happened to the vertebrae?
    Who has the picture that was sent anonymously to Jennie? Has anyone had anything DNA tested, done any fingerprints?
    Did anyone ever find the missing private investigator that George hired?
    I'm certainly no crime solving expert, but growing up in a town similar to Fayetteville, I can say for certain that a lot of these towns do have a mafia presence, and do have many dirty cops, which I think would explain a lot in this case.
    This case is so confusing on one hand, but really seems to be a slam-dunk as far as determining whether something fishy happened...

  15. #15
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    If I had both the resources and the authority, I would the site of the house as an archeological site and do a dig. That could prove or disprove any theory.


    What happened to former Centre County DA Ray Gricar?

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